I am frugal. I am extremely frugal. I make meals that cost $5 or less every Friday. My grocery budget for three is $50 a week (and that includes cleaning products). All my clothes are from op shops or gifted. In part this is due to a lifestyle choice because I chose many years ago to live in a mindful, non-wasteful way and to appreciate what I have on a quest for financial security. But my frugal lifestyle is also borne out of necessity as I pay the legal fees necessary to extract myself from a difficult marriage and provide for my two children.
Today’s blog post is a piece of memoir style prose that I wrote a few months ago. I have been toying with, wondering whether to publish it elsewhere. Perhaps it is too personal for my blog? Maybe. There are a lot of ways in which I am frugal, but sometimes, just sometimes, I splurge on things that make me feel good. And that is important for me because in the past I always put myself last. Can you relate? Anyway, it is my pleasure to share it with you and I hope you enjoy it.
“Around 15 years ago I allowed my hair to grow long and I rarely, if ever cut it. We had just bought our first house, and my ex-husband had a new commission paying job. Things were tight. I thought my hair looked scraggly, but I tied it back and tried not to notice as I walked past the mirror. I told myself I would afford a better haircut one day. My priorities came last in the relationship, but I didn’t recognise it as a problem then as I thought it was just part of the cycle of a young couple working hard for their future financial security and happiness.
Years later as my marriage spiralled into anger and then violence, I dried my tears through visits to my hairdresser. I was living in Taiwan at the time and a shampoo, cut and blowdry at a simple roadside salon cost only $12. What bliss! It was hard to find the time in my busy work and mother routine, but when I did manage to get to the salon I relished every moment. My stylist even managed to find a fresh style to hide a horrid scar on my forehead. Looking in the mirror after a salon visit, I could almost pretend that my marriage wasn’t crashing in on me.
After separation, self-pampering was on the back burner for a while. To save money, I didn’t even buy shampoo – I washed my hair either with bicarbonate of soda or soap. It worked (and I often still do this), but with my fine hair the results are variable. There was none of that fine lather and luscious essential oil scent you get with commercial product, if anything it smelt a bit from the vinegar rinse I sometimes used. My hair was not my best asset at that time, so usually I just slicked my greasy mop back in a ponytail as best I could and tried not to look at it. But eventually, I found a cheap and reliable local hairdresser. He was good. I liked his work. But you know, sometimes I just wanted to feel PAMPERED.
Last August I felt awful. I had a cold, I had man troubles, I felt drab, and I had bad hair as a result of not having found time to get it cut for several months. Someone gifted me an eye shaping voucher at a classy hairdressing salon in a boutique hotel near my work. I decided to splurge on getting a haircut there as well during a lunchtime at work.
What luxury! The salon was an oasis of cool calm and it felt it was such an indulgence to treat myself like that. I loved the coconut smelling shampoo that lathered into great suds and the apprentice’s gentle but firm hands as she gave me a head and shoulder massage. Admittedly the experience was nearly double what I paid before (although still cheap by most standards as there was no colour or perm or anything else) but I did feel special. I also took a liking to the beautiful stylist and the gentle way that she sculpted my hair and praised my appearance. I’m sure she does that to all her clients, but it felt so good.
Up until then I had always chosen hairdressers based more on their skill than on the décor. Why should I pay for the rent of their premises? Or for their brand? All that counted was how I looked after the visit. That is still, for the most part, my philosophy. But sometimes, I just want to splurge on something special for myself. I have struggled for a long time to cultivate true self worth, to be kind to myself and allow permission to love myself.
My hairdresser has now left that salon, and I was lucky to find her and to learn that she is opening her own business soon. In the meantime, she is working at a friend’s salon. It isn’t very glamourous, more a cut-price outfit in a shopping centre, but I walked out feeling like the millionairess that I know I am. And people at work noticed.
“Are you doing something special tonight,” one of my work friends asked.
“Er, no” I answered. “Should I?”
“Well you look so lovely with your hair done like that, I thought you had plans,” she answered.
My plan was to put a helmet on my head and cycle home and then, with my boys at their Dad’s place, to go home by myself to my empty apartment and do some writing. All by myself. I couldn’t help but think that it sounded like something out of Bridget Jones diary. So instead, I did something even MORE out of keeping with my frugal nature, and I took myself out to dinner on a date with myself. Having just (finally) broken up with Mr Red Sports car after dating for a year (his parting words ‘you are wonderful, but …’), I decided to just rejoice in my single status and to treat myself to whatever I wanted to do. For once. And it was liberating. Just me, myself and I, looking glamourous (I hoped) with my new hairdo sitting in a hip Japanese bar, which I chose because I wanted to go there.
Am I a traitor to my frugal lifestyle and quest for financial security? Of course not. The day after was another frugal day. I went to work with a homemade lunchbox of leftovers. On the weekend, I walked to the shops in search of an Indian grocery store to buy henna to dye my hair. I found innovative ways to use up what was in my fridge and cupboard in line with my ultra slim grocery budget (I spent less than half the cost of my haircut). I then made another batch of homemade washing powder, and paid some bills.
But this date marked a change in my priorities, the start of loving myself and not just other people. From that point on I started to allow myself small treats– within budget. I discovered that small luxuries help feed the soul and open space for self-love. The evening also marked a turning point in the growth of my own self confidence. And yes, people have noticed.
Do you enjoy a trip to the hairdressers? What frugal luxuries do you indulge in?